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Legion Baseball: Patriots head into late-season stretch riding roller coaster

Like some sort of precious metal, summer in the northland is a scant commodity. As it comes to an eventual close, so too follow the summer sports we hold so dear.

Likewise, even though it may seem like the Legion Baseball season just began, the postseason is right around the corner.

How time flies.

The American Legion baseball Eastern Division Tournament is July 22-24, in Fargo, and the state tournament is July 28-Aug. 1, in Bismarck at the Municipal Ball Park. (On a side note, the junior state tournament also runs July 28-Aug. 1, and will be in West Fargo).

The American Legion state tournament winner advances to the regional tournament on Aug. 5-9, at Hidden Valley Park in Blue Springs, Mo. States in the Central Plains Region include North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

Region winners then advance to the Legion World Series on Aug. 13-17, in Spokane, Wash. Last year's World Series was held in Fargo.

For the West Fargo Patriots, that leaves little time to work out any last-minute rough spots. Fortunately for them, they've had a banner season.

The Patriots had two doubleheaders to go as of the writing of this article, one against the Bismarck Governors on Monday, and the regular-season finale Tuesday against Detroit Lakes. Both sets of games were in West Fargo.

Head coach Bill Ibach could not be reached for comment.

Even if West Fargo were to drop its final games, they still wound up having one of their better seasons. As of Friday, the Patriots were sitting at 12-4 against North Dakota teams, and 25-14 overall - certainly an improvement from last year's barely .500 team.

Last week, the Patriots started out by splitting with Detroit Lakes on Tuesday. West Fargo dropped the first game 3-1 before picking up the nightcap 8-7. On Thursday, West Fargo grabbed some needed momentum by sweeping the Mandan Chiefs 4-3, 4-0.

Finishing the week 3-1 was a solid rebound after hitting a rough patch at the Gopher Classic in Arden Hills, Minn., on July 9-11. The Patriots went 1-4 at the tournament, racking up just nine runs while allowing 37. Before the Gopher Classic, West Fargo had gone on an impressive streak of 14-3 from June 22-July 6.If anything can be learned from history, the Patriots are not a team to be underestimated. Last season, a state tournament berth seemed far-fetched for a West Fargo team that went 1-5 during the week before the end of the regular season. But the Patriots rebounded handily and wound up making the tournament as a No. 7 seed. They were knocked out by losses to Mandan and Minot, but not before getting an upset over No. 2 Williston.

Hopefully, this year's Patriots can forget about that little hiccup two weeks ago, and remember one very important thing: they are a very talented, competitive and capable team worthy of their second state tournament berth in as many years.